Nature Walk and Happy Hour

I have recently fallen in love with nature walks.

Through the various phases and stages of lockdown, my husband chose a fantastic way to deal with closures and isolation. He walked. Everyday. Sometimes for hours.

He even got a rotation going where he would walk with different friends on different days. It was a fantastic way to achieve both mental and physical health.

I started going with him. Two or three times a week, even during the coldest winter days. With the right gear, and right attitude, a dose of physical activity and nature can be good for the body and the soul.

Today I had my head buried in a couple of writing projects. Late afternoon I realized my brain was done for the day and I felt blah. I decided to put on some walking gear and do a beautiful forest loop close to home.

My hubby ended up joining me. Two hours later, forest loop done, I feel revived and relaxed. Time for a home brew on the patio.

What do you do to stay healthy, physically and mentally?

A Taste of Fiction

It’s Sunday. The Sun is shining (at least in my neck of the woods). Let’s have a little fun.

I usually write non-fiction—on this site. On my other site, I am all about stories. The writing that I do here, on this blog, and in the book that inspired this website, is descriptive. The adventures, the people, the blood, sweat and tears, the food… all of it is captured with a high level of description. That’s how I write my fiction too. The characters come off the page. The scenery seeps from the written words. The emotion. The journey. All of it.

If you are curious, you are in luck! I have a flash sale going right now. Grab your copy, and see what you think.

Stay tuned for more outdoor adventures and inspiration!

Saturating in Summer

It has been a long time since I have posted something here. For those of you still kicking around, thanks for being here! For anyone new, welcome!

So, what have I been up to? Writing, writing, writing! Although I haven’t been posting anything on my lovely bike site, I have been writing up a storm. If you haven’t checked out my new works of fiction, please do. Pop on by my new site – Killers and Demons – for tales of dark crime and horror, with a head bang or too.

Interested in more outdoor adventures? Then stay tuned here. Although I haven’t shared much for a while, I assure you, the adventures are still happening.

We’ve all been through a bit of a rattling time. Our worlds have been turned upside down. Things keep changing. I hope that through it all you have been able to find ways to stay healthy and balanced, to get fresh air, exercise, and to clear your mind and calm your soul when anxiety and stress have seeped into your life.

I am still biking. Through the winter, I had a pretty solid spinning routine going, and I added in some squats, sit-ups, push-ups, all with a weight vest and ball. Basically, I took the equipment I had and made whatever home gym I could. With gyms and yoga studios closed, and fitness equipment sky-rocketing in price, I made do. It’s always possible.

Something else that I started doing was walking outside, no matter what the weather. My hubby walked almost every day through the winter. He chose a positive path to stay healthy—physically, and mentally. I latched on at least once a week, sometimes two or three times. He would pace us, there would always be hills, and we would aim for distance goals.

Now that summer is here, full on, we kicked it off with a bang.

Yesterday, the first super hot day we have had, and the first day that patios are allowed to be open again, we did a 24 km loop that would lead us to the patio of one of our favorite breweries. It was hot. Too hot. I had to ration my water carefully. The walk was harder mentally than physically. I had to take a deep breath a few times and choose to continue on strong with a good attitude. But I did.

We reached our destination to find a cool spot on the patio in the shade, sucked back several jugs of water, then enjoyed a couple of new releases. My favorite was the Summer Saturation, a play on one of their core beers with mango, papaya, and guava. Perfect for a hot summer day.

So, here’s to more posts here on this site that I love so much but have neglected. Cheers to hot summer days, and cold fruity beers!

How have you been doing out there? What have you done to stay healthy, positive, and balanced? Do share your own tips and tricks on the comments. I am always looking for new ideas.

Falling in Love

I’m in love. Her name is Kyoto.It’s been a while since I’ve travelled. I mean, really travelled. Long flights, trains, backpack style trekking around the world type travel.I had been craving it, but I didnt realize just how much. I’ve changed. I’ve grown. At this moment I am deep into this across the world adventure, and as I sit here on a train eating a delicious bento box, drinking a Kirin, resting my hiking boots on the foot rest of my train seat, I am totally immersed.We, my hubby and I, are just leaving Kyoto. After four days, I didn’t want to leave. But it’s time for the next phase of our journey.Kyoto stole my heart. A piece of it is still back there in those beautiful mountains as we speed away.It all started with a hike up the remote pilgrimage mountain — Mountain of Peace. It continued with a climb up nature’s stair climber on the Fushimi Trail.The crowds thinned as we made our way up the longer route. I pushed my pace to a fairly unreasonable rate up the winding staircases when Golden Boy — with his young skin, shirtless ripped torso and blond hair — thought he could pass me. Sorry about your luck. This little girl with pig tails and a back pack can push until her insides scream with the right motivation.

The rewards at the top were worth it. A meditative space filled with little paths winding through a plethora of shrines.The icing on the cake, the last bit of melting my heart, was the hike away from the crowds, up a deserted path to a peak that looked down upon the bamobo forest and monkey park. We sat on a makeshift bench of logs and relished in the chorus of birds and insects. Nature’s music.After hiking and meditating in the mountains all day, and taking in the sites, we developed a routine of enjoying the amazing happy hour at our hotel.At night we explored the rather inique and interesting areas of Gion and Pontocho. By the end of our four days, we had gotten the hang of finding the more authentic restaurants and Japanese whiskey bars. It was truly amazing being the only white people in a joint.As I sit here on this train, my heart is a little tender. I fell in love with Kyoto. I don’t want to leave. I know I’ll be back.

 

Mountain of Peace

This is a recount of adventures in Japan last fall. I’m a little late posting but wanted to share this wonderful journey.

After a week in a high energy big city, I found myself so excited about hiking up a quiet mountainside that I woke up super early. I stared at the clock, willing the time to pass. Filled with positive energy, I couldn’t wait to put on my hiking boots.I had thoroughly enjoyed all the activities that we had been engaged in. Seeing a totally different part of the world had been fun and adventurous. But my being was craving nature and a different energy wavelength. The hike that I was about to do would offer that and more.After a couple of trains and filling the pack with water and food, we started our climb.As per our experience so far, every local person we encountered went out of their way to make sure we were on the right track.As soon as we stepped into the forest and started our trek up the trail, my inner being sunk into a peaceful energy. The climb started immediately and it was steep! I fell into that old pattern of finding my flow. The one where my physical, mental and spiritual beings all align with each other, and with nature.The sounds of nature sung around us. We relished in the squeaking of monkeys and the otherwise silence. Occassionally the trees would crack and creak in the breeze.No people. No buildings. Just us, the monkeys and the forest.The trail had many steep stretches. It was hard work, but it felt good. I fell into the rhythm I knew well. My husband told me of the 1000 day challenge. The trail is a pilgrimage path, and monks do it every day for 1000 days, fasting for 10 consecutive days during the challenge. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was working hard.Reaching the peak was rewarding. The view was stunning. We rested and had a picnic. No fasting for me.The real reward, however, was quite unexpected. A little more hiking took us to the Dai Ko-do temple (beside Bell Tower). We removed our boots, slid the door open and entered. We sat cross legged. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply. The scent of incense filled me. It calmed me. My mind was clear.Before leaving, I participated in the purchase (by donation) of an incense stick that you light and place in a bowl among others. It is intended to be in memory of someone. I took a moment for silent reflection.The descent was awesome. There was a bus that took us down the mountain and within blocks of our hotel!A shower and happy hour were waiting for us. The zen feeling lasted into the evening. Now I’m going to crave meditation on every mountain peak.

Where Did Julie and Her Bike Go?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything here on my ‘Just A Girl And A Bike’ site. I assure you, I have not gone away. I’m still here. I’m still just a girl. I’m still riding my bike. And I’m still raising money for World Bicycle Relief, one book at a time.

I’m doing lots of other things now too. Hiking has become a big part of my life. My last posts were about some amazing hikes I did in Utah (Climb Like a Spider to Angel’s Landing), and a trip to my local mountains to ride, hike, and sell books (Reflections from the Mountains).

I was still travelling until the lockdown happened. I was lucky enough to get in a trip to Japan and to San Diego before it all happened. I did write some posts, but didn’t publish them. Stay tuned….

I’ve also launched myself onto a path of becoming a fiction writer. This has kept me quite busy – and is the reason that I have not pampered my traveling, biking, hiking, inspirational blog the way I once did. For that I am sorry, and I miss it, but…sometimes you have to focus and you can’t do everything. I am happy to say that because I buckled down and worked hard, I launched my debut novel last January.

Final Track - FRONT

If you like MindHunter, Hannibal, Criminal Minds…you might like my novel – Final Track.

If you like dark crime, horror, and 80s metal…you can check out my new site. KillersAndDemons – a toxic cocktail of 80s metal, ritualistic murder, and raw horror. You will also find the occasional inspirational post there as well (it is in my nature). And, you will find lots of cool stuff – free short stories (right now you get Where’s Benji if you sign up for the newsletter), story time (Creepy Readings with Demon Julie) and a plethora of other cool and fun stuff. Stop on by!

 

Newsletter2Although my ‘new’ creative path seems totally different than the one conveyed here on this site, there are some glaring similarities. I still write inspirational posts – I can’t help it. I still write about my passions (music, 80s, reading, writing) – just slightly different passions than the outdoor adventure focus here. I’m still in the posts, in the stories, and in the website. It’s still me. Just a different side of me.

 

 

104385072_1005311676549685_2396385641008336064_nI was recently interviewed by an author I totally admire (Daniel Willcocks) on his podcast called Great Writers Share. I’ve posted it here so you can have a listen. It was eye opening and quite refreshing to see that no matter what I choose to focus on or to write – I am still Julie. Now, I’m not Just A Girl and a Bike – I’m also Bon Julie, Demon Julie…and who knows what other Julie’s are lurching within 🙂

Listen to Great Writers Share | with Daniel Willcocks

It’s been a long journey. Stay here for more outdoor and travel adventure blogs. Come along with me at KillersAndDemons for dark tales of crime and horror coated with 80s metal, or follow both – whatever suits your taste.

Stay tuned for some good memories from a fascinating adventure in Japan last fall.

The Power of Inspiration

I’m just coming off of a whirl wind four day of attending a local, award winning, writing conference. I have posted about When Words Collide before (Inspiration, Creativity and Community at When Words Collide), but every time I attend I end up completely compelled to share.

This year was my fourth time attending. Thus, only three years ago, I showed up at this massive conference and I didn’t know anybody. At that time, I had written my book ‘Just a Girl and a Bike’, but I had no idea how to put it together and get it out there. My goal was simply for even one person to read it and feel inspired and infused with belief in themselves. Well, I’ll be honest, tears are trickling right now as I write this, because that goal has been surpassed. And not just because I have been able to get my book into many hands of people who needed the message within, but because this time at When Words Collide I had a profound and touching experience.

The second time I attended When Words Collide, I signed up to give a presentation on steps to self-publish. I was terrified – I questioned what I really knew. But, I had learned that this conference was about sharing with each other what we had learned along the way. It was a fantastic experience. I did the presentation the next year, and again this year.

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Continue reading “The Power of Inspiration”

Reflections from the Mountains

I’m back from a very full two days in the mountains. After a solid two days of non-stop adventure, my heart is full of gratitude. Living so close to some of the most beautiful mountains is absolutely amazing. Every time I make the trip out, I come back feeling renewed and alive. My being feels open. My soul is infused with a energy and a sense of peace and calm.

The trip was oriented around a fitness expo, paired with the Banff Marathon. The expo itself is a beautifully run little event. People from all over the world come to run through the mountains, participating in the full marathon, half marathon, or 10 km run. The expo is set up such that participants come through to pick up their race packages, and have an opportunity to peruse the vendors. I have been fortunate to be able to be part of this as Just A Girl and a Bike for several years now.

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It’s always exciting to sell a book, of course. But, the conversations I end up having and the connections I end up making are what really stick in my mind. All sorts of people with a wide range of experience show up to run. I find myself relating whole heartedly to those who have never done this beforeor have nervous energy all over their face. I love that I can relate, talk to them, and perhaps even help them to focus their minds and their energy.

This year, after talking to a lady who was quite worried about the run, she said to me, “Thank you. I really needed that.” She walked away with a smile. Now, that made my heart sing.

So, not only did I sell some books, and selling books means more money raised for World Bicycle Relief, but I talked to many amazing people. And, I made a connection that could turn into a wonderful opportunity to encourage girls to be confident, seek the activities they love, and find their whole selves. Yes. I’m excited.

Now, of course, being in the mountains, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to get in some activities. I LOVE activities. I went up early the first morning and snuck in a bit of cycling. I was able to do a short, sweet loop up to Lake Minnewanka, with enough climbing to get my heart pumping.

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On the way up, I saw about eight or so mountain sheep, with babies! On the way down, I rolled right by two moose munching away at the gras on the side of the road. What an experience. These animals are truly magnificent, majestic, and have an aura of calm about them. I was even able to sneak in a side trip to Johnson Lake, adding on a couple more km and a wee bit more climbing.

I just felt SO good to be on my bike, surrounded by mountains, the fresh air kissing my face, and the essence of nature infusing my soul.

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After a long second day of talking, interacting, and being ‘on’, I unplugged by hiking aggressively up a series of switchbacks to the top of Sulfur Mountain. The peace and quiet of nature, the smell of the trail, the fresh air, and the earth, and the general calm that clings to the air on such a trail, absolutely refreshed me after expelling so much energy.

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Of course, I was happy to be home, in my own bed, back in my sanctuary. And now here I sit, writing, reflecting, and feeling happy and full of life. What an amazing place to live, so close to such mountains. And what a wonderful path I have been taking on by sharing my own story of facing my fears.

Climb Like a Spider to Angel’s Landing

Angels Landing, a plateau at the peak of a red rock face, perched in the heart of Zion National Park.

2.5 miles of strenuous hiking up multiple series of switchbacks, including Walter’s Wiggles, takes you to the landing point where some will stay while others scramble to the final landing. Two long series of chains bolted into the rock with steel poles provide a safety net from the 1000 foot drop offs.

I wasn’t sure what the trail would really be like. I knew the distances. I knew the height gain. I know what it feels like to hike up long, steep descents. I have done some scrambling. But I wasn’t sure what these chained sections would be like.

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My first attempt at reaching the summit of Angel’s Landing, I had taken the first shuttle of the day from the town beside Zion park. I darted across the park entrance to catch the next shuttle up the canyon. I disembarked at the Grotto stop, along with dozens of other eager hikers. The herd quickly thinned as the climbing grew strenuous. At the top, many other hikers already milled about. The first series of chains wasn’t nearly as challenging as I thought it would be. I stood on the flat section before the second series, looking up at a daunting rocky climb. I wanted to do it. But, all I could think about was the growing number of people, of various hiking abilities, streaming both up and down sections only wide enough for one. The communication was minimal. The chaos was growing. I didn’t feel this was something I should do. Or that I wanted to do under these conditions.

Continue reading “Climb Like a Spider to Angel’s Landing”

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